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Anderson Cooper 360

News/Business. (2012) (CC)

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01:00:00

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ac3

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1920

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1080

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Us 18, Asperger 10, Lynn 5, Noah 5, Usaa 4, Jessica 3, Ethan 3, Jack 3, Sandy 3, Pozner 3, The National Rifle Association 2, Obama 2, Lynn Mcdonnell 2, Dr. Sanjay Gupta 2, Cisco 2, Bny Mellon Wealth Management 2, Sophia 2, Heaven 2, Connecticut 2, Sea Gulls 1,
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  CNN    Anderson Cooper 360    News/Business.  (2012)  (CC)  

    December 18, 2012
    10:00 - 11:00pm PST  

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we are bringing you another broadcast tonight from newtown, connecticut. a town where many students returned to school today. schools reopened with the exception, of course, of sandy hook elementary. the school that is now a crime scene. the students will go back to
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school after the holidays in a different building eight mile away with 20 bright young faces missing from the halls and the classrooms. everything is different now. the children in this town are facing a new reality. doing things they never should have to do at this young age, like writing goodbye letters to their friends. 6-year-old jack pinto was buried yesterday. the funeral, a note from his friend john reads, jack, you're my best friend. we had fun together. i will miss you. i will talk to you in my prayers. i love you, jack. love john. there were two more funerals today for two more 6-year-olds. jess they were laid to rest today. we will remember them tonight and honor them tonight. our hearts and our thoughts are with their families and their friends and we wish peace and strength to all the people whose lives that jessica and james touched in six short years. >> james mattioli was known as jay. 6-year-old, he was full of energy. he loved baseball, basketball, arm wrestling. he especially loved swimming.
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his parents used to say he swam like a fish. and loved to visit his grandparents. james also learned to ride his bike. he tried to wear shorts and t-shirts all year round. he loved to use hair gel in order to spike up his brown hair. he was a little boy who looked forward to growing up. he liked to sing at the top of his lungs and would ask how old do i have to be before i can sing on a stage? he also wanted to know when he'd be old enough to order a foot long ham sandwich at subway one of his favorite places. james was born four weeks prematurely, his family used to joke, he came into the world because he was hungry. his parents say he was an early riser, always the first to wake the family up, always eager to start the day. at the end of the day, he loved nothing more than to cuddle up with this mom under a blanket on the couch. james also adored spending time with his dad.
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in his obituary, he writes, if dad was outside, james liked to be right there with him. their love of one another was one of a kind. james was his dad's mini look-alike. jessica rekos loved everything about horses. she'd spend her free time reading books about them. drawing pictures, even watching movies about them. she was waiting for the day she could get her very own horse. her parents, both raised in newtown, called her a beautiful, creative little girl who spent time writing in journals and making up stories. they spoke to abc news. >> i found a little journal, i don't even know what it's from. i just opened the book and it was exactly what i needed. it says i love you so much, mama. it's like she knew we were going to need something to help us get through this. it's just what an amazing girl she was. >> jessica also became passionate about orca whales
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after watching the movie "free willy." she said her dream was to see a real orca. a few months ago she was able to see a real one in person at seaworld. jessica's little brother was the rock who kept everyone together. in a statement, her parents write, we cannot imagine our life without her. we are mourning her loss, sharing our beautiful memories we have of her, trying to help her brother travis understand why he can't play with his best friend. we are devastated. two more little children laid to rest. one thing that we've been doing here is really trying to keep focus on the lives that have been lost. we're not focusing on the killer, he's gone, and frankly, we don't want him to be remembered. certainly not by name. we tried to be careful of what the families are going through. try not to ever intrude on their suffering. after sunday night's program, we got a call from the mcdonnell family. 7-year-old grace mcdonnell's family.
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i spoke with graces parents chris and lynn at length. they told me who grace was. the light of their family. a little girl who loved school, her brother jack. a talented artist that lived life to the fullest. made the most of every day. of her far too short life. i was amazed at the strength grace's parents showed they say it's grace who is guiding them through these difficult days. here's our conversation. tonight, we honor grace, we will remember her. what do you want people to know about grace? >> well, grace had such a great spirit. she was a kind and gentle soul. and she was just the light and love of our family. she was just truly a special, special little girl. that we loved and she loved her brother so much. and she loved her school sandy hook and in fact, this week i was telling somebody she had a stomach ache one day, i said why don't you stay home with mom. she said, no way, i have too much fun and i don't want to miss anything.
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she would skip to get on the bus. it wasn't even a, every morning. every night the backpack was packed the night before and ready to head off to the bus. we would blow kisses every morning to each other. i remember that morning, putting her on the bus, she had a habit of blowing kisses but then a big liver lip like -- ooh, i knew she was so happy to get there. i'd like to say she was at a place that she loved, so we take comfort in that, that we know she was in a place that she really loved. >> and with friends? >> and with friends. people that loved her. the whole community and the school and the teachers, they're all raising your child. >> exactly. >> and it's a special place. >> it is. and i take comfort that she was with all her friends. and i just envision all of them holding hands. and they're all together up there.
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and they're up there with their wonderful principal. i mean, they have so many people up there helping them. and i said to somebody, sandy hook, we have so many angels and so many bright stars shining over all of us in this town right now. and each one of those children was -- you look at their pictures, they were so beautiful. and they all had a story and a talent. >> what did you say to jack? i mean, how did you -- because there's a lot of parents right now who are trying to figure out what to say to their children all around the world about this. >> telling him was by far the toughest thing to do. i think what we did was truthful, honest, words that he could understand. and hoping that he'll be able to process this and how we help to guide him to process this over the long journey ahead. >> you met with president obama yesterday. what was that like? >> i did.
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you know, i know he's the leader of our country, when he walked into that room, it was a very private meeting. but when he walked in the room to greet us, it was just a dad. he's just a dad coming in to meet a dad and a mom and a son. and we really felt that. we felt his support and it was really -- it was really special. and we shared some special things about grace with him and her art. >> you brought him something? >> we did. we told him that grace had two things in common with him. their love for martha's vineyard and hawaii. and grace's dream was to live on the beach and be a painter. and so offered him one of her paintings which he said he would treasure. so that gave us great comfort, too. but really just felt like a dad surrounding us and feeling our pain. you know, when he walked in the room, i realized he has to go to so many families today, and this is not the first time he's had
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to do this. so, i have to look at him and pray for him for strength. >> i was talking to you before we began. one of the things we were saying is you don't want to have hate or anger in your heart? >> no, i had said that to jack that, it's okay to be angry because, sure, we have anger and we're upset and we don't know why. but i told jack that he could never live with hate. grace didn't have an ounce of hate in her. and so we have to live through grace and realize that hate is not how our family is. and not -- certainly not how grace is. and i know all those beautiful little children, they didn't have any hate in them either. so we'll just take the lead from them, and we will not go down that road. but we'll let them guide us. >> it's a hard thing, though, isn't it to not feel that? >> we're going to go on and we're going to use her positive
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energy to help guide us forward. >> one of gracie's favorite thing to paint or draw was a peace sign. and she just had a birthday in november when she turned 7. she request -- i said, what would you like your cake to look like, grace? and she said, i want a purple cake with a turquoise peace sign and polka dots. and sure enough, her cake was purple, polka dots, turquoise, it was totally grace. it was so colorful. >> and a one of a kind, too. >> she was all about peace, she really was. and i was looking the morning after i was in the bathroom, and i used to dry her hair next to the window. and the window would fog up and she would write notes in the window to me. and on saturday morning, i was standing at that window in the bathroom, it had fogged up and i looked, and there was her peace sign in the window. and i was like, that's a sign from my grace. and above it it said grace, mom,
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and she drew a heart. she was all about peace and gentleness and kindness. >> you went to the funeral home, and you were telling me the story of she has a white casket? >> she does. when we walked in the room, it was the first time we had been able to be with her. and when we walked in the room, and we saw that white casket. you felt like the floor was falling out beneath you and your breath was taken away. earlier in the morning, i decided because grace loved art so much, we were packing sharpies in our pockets. when we got in, after we did our big family hug with grace, we sat down and we busted out the sharpies. we decided -- at first i envisioned maybe a little heart. but by the time we were done, there wasn't an inch of white. was so covered with all the things that she loved.
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and her brother, we wrote her notes and her nicknames and all the things that she loved. cupcakes. >> places you'd been together? >> ice cream cones, lighthouses, sea gulls. she's laughing at us right now because our artwork is terrible. but when we left the room it was certainly so hard to leave her because that would be the last time that we would be able to be with her. we had to take great joy in knowing when we walked in there it was so white and our breath was taken away. but when we walked out of there, it was like we had joy again. it had so much color and it was grace. it was so grace. >> you were able to give her things as well? >> yes. we brought her her favorite pocketbook. and we had seashells and flip-flops and sunglasses. and she loved to cook. we had a frying pan. she loved music. she has taylor swift christmas
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song in there. she has her dad's new york yankee hat. so she had all the things that she loved with her. so we took -- we had peace when we left last night. >> it's got to be hard not to have been not actually to see her? >> well, at first i thought that. and i had questioned maybe wanting to see her, but then i thought, she was just so, so beautiful, and she wouldn't want us to remember her looking any different than her perfect hair bow on the side of her beautiful long blond hair. and so we'll take comfort in looking, we have so many beautiful pictures of her. we'll take comfort in remembering her beautiful smile and i'll remember her blowing the kisses that day, getting off the bus, going off to school.
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>> i want to thank the mcdonnells for inviting us into their home. it was a true honor getting to hear about grace. after that interview, i gave them my number, and i said if there's anything that they forgot to say, anything that they wanted to say that they thought of later to just let me know, and they should just contact us. this morning, we got a note from mrs. mcdonnell, lynn. that she wanted me to share here. i won't share the whole note with you because some of it is plift. she said when anderson visited our house i showed him one of the picture books in martha's vineyard. i always said i took my photograph to be my chirp's eyes. i wanted them to remember everything from our adventuring together. now, i'm going to be grace's eyes but her voice. i feel fearless. i will never feel any pain greater than i do right now. i'm going to take on the world for our gracie girl. i myself have nothing to lose and everything to gain. jack and grace always said, you have conquer your fear. i'm doing it now for both of them. such strength. i will not forget the mcdonnells
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or their amazing grace. you heard lynn talk about giving president obama one of the pictures. she gave me the same picture. a xerox copy of it, it's an owl. great had drawn it. president obama said he would cherish it. i'm going to frame it and cherish it as well. here are a few more pictures as we go to break. ♪ tell them it's like being nestled in an eight-way, adjustable, heated and ventilated seat surrounded by a 500-watt sound system while floating on a suspension made of billowy clouds. or you could just hand them your keys. ♪ ♪
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look at one of the many memorials for the victims here in newtown tonight. as we mentioned earlier, it's the first time since friday's tragedy newtown students returned to classrooms. every school but sandy hook elementary has reopened. the question is, what should be routine, of course, is no more. returning students and staff are met by more police officers and counselors than there were before. for some today, it was their first chance really to talk about what happened with their friends. with their teachers. kim joins me now with more. it had to be an extraordinarily difficult day for the students. >> a difficult day but a really necessary day. we spoke to students and parents. what we were hearing, parents say they're eager to get back to the routine. they know kids like routine. if you're a parent, that's what kids want. the students say when they were on the bus it was
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extraordinarily quiet. they were starting to have those quiet conversations inside school. an 11-year-old boy told us he felt better being in school. he felt protected there. the teachers were reaching out to him. the counseling sessions were happening in the school. as a sign of comfort, it was across newtown and the surrounding communities, police cars in every single school. the high school i was at in newtown, three police cars. the students say it made them feel better. >> it's still impossible to imagine. appreciate the reporting. thank you very much. it's been particularly difficult, obviously, for students to go back to school. dr. david schoenfeld is a crisis counselor who gave a presentation to teachers in newtown on how to talk to children. he's the director of the national crisis and bereavement. he joins me now right now live. thank you for being with us. >> thank you. >> you met with teachers. administrators, all employees of the school. what is your message to them? >> well, there are a couple
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messages i want to get across. the first is to recognize how heroic it is to be able to help students in a time like this. we have to remember all of the staff. they're grieving some of their own members of the staff. they're definitely grieving the loss of the children they were close to. that they care about. they're also impacted by it. the first thing is to recognize what they're doing and how courageous that is. >> one of the things i heard you say, it's okay to show emotion when talking with the students? >> right. a lot of times we don't want to upset children and we don't want to show them we're upset. but really, the kids are already upset. they already know about this. we want to help them cope with the feelings. if we never so them distress, we can model with them how to cope with it. seeing some distress with adults that they care about, particularly when it's followed by suggestions on how to deal with that and cope with it effectively is helpful for them to start to heal. >> what else do you want them to know?
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>> i also wanted them to know we had to change some of the expectations of what we could accomplish in terms of learning over the next week. i told the teachers that really we have to meet the students where they are right now. and we also have to meet the teachers and other school staff where they are. as far as i was concerned there was only one lesson plan that they needed to teach before they broke for the new year. that was to make sure that the children knew they were safe, they cared about them and they were going to care for them. >> i guess for a number of students, this is obviously the first time that they've had to face death. that they've had to deal with this at all. >> it is for many of the children. unfortunately, we know 9 out of 10 children are going to experience a significant loss of a death or family member or friend by the time they complete high school. so for many children, it will not be a new experience, but obviously, this is a profound experience for anyone. >> and how do you -- i mean, do you talk to kids?
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or i guess part of the lesson is that not all teachers will be counselors. that if somebody needs your extensive conversation, there are other people to refer them to? >> i think it's important that we underscore what we're asking the teaching staff to do and the rest of the staff and the school, the support staff, is to create a supportive environment. not to provide counseling. it doesn't need to be -- it's not their responsibility to provide therapy. there are others in the school that will do it. and others in the community that have that role. but what we want from the school staff is to be -- is to be able to create a safe and supportive environment. >> you've obviously dealt with this sort of thing before. how do you think this community is doing? >> well, i arrived here saturday night. actually the american federation of teachers reached out to me on friday and asked me to come and help their staff and i arrived on saturday. i was greeted immediately by the commissioner of education, stefan pryor. and we met well into the night on what to do. when i was able to meet with the superintendent, janet robinson.
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and the other staff. i was really impressed by the concern, the caring, and the profound commitment that they have to these children. >> it's a close-knit community. dave i appreciate you being with us. >> thank you very much. next, a special mission for noah, 6-year-old noah pozner laid to rest. his cousin couldn't make it to the funeral but wanted to make sure he got that letter. we'll talk to noah's uncle. [ female announcer ] research suggests cell health plays a key role throughout our lives. one a day women's 50+ is a complete multivitamin designed for women's health concerns as we age. it has 7 antioxidants to support cell health. one a day 50+.
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the look of fear was certainly in everybody's eyes that day i'll never forget. >> and that goes for for first responders.
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law enforcement, everybody. >> yeah. the sounds of the sirens kept coming and coming and coming. and it seems like it never ended that day. >> those 20 families here in newtown face the unimaginable task of burying their 6 and 7-year-old children. we want to share with you a poignant story about noah pozner, 6 years old, laid to rest yesterday. noah's family wanted to bury letters from family members. noah's cousin ethan lives in seattle, he made a card for noah. the problem is getting it to connecticut in time for the funeral. on sunday, ethan's mom took to twitter asking for help. message from jetblue airline. we're sorry for your loss, please give us your phone number. we'll have someone reach out to you. his cousin's letter made it to connecticut to be buried with noah. ethan's mom shared the card on twitter. she wrote, noah represents life. inside it says i love you, noah.
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joining us is alexei haller. noah pozner's uncle. thank you for joining us. what do you want everybody to know about noah? >> well, noah is a great kid. smart as a whip. bit of a maverick. >> mischievous, i heard. >> mischievous. loved his family more than anything else. when his mom would say i love you, noah would respond, not as much as i love you. he loved his siblings, too. he had a twin sister. >> they were very close. >> extremely close. as babies they would babble from their cribs, all sorts of trouble, inseparable. >> i heard you tell the other siblings that he worked at a taco factory? >> that's right. he pretended he worked at a taco factory. they would ask him questions about it and he wouldn't really respond. he would just give them a look as if he knew more than they did. >> i love that story. >> noah was also just a normal
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little kid. he loves mario brothers and animals and legos and superheroes. and all the stuff that normal 6-year-old loves. you know, that's noah. >> i know you wanted to talk about there's some scams out there that the family is obviously concerned about. what are you hearing? >> that's correct. today, we found out there was a domain name set up in noah's name. we've since challenged that. it's been taken offline by godaddy. but we also were made aware of an e-mail scam where somebody was -- >> oops, sorry, sorry. >> somebody was purporting to solicit money on behalf of the family. >> that's unbelievable. >> it was going to an address in the bronx. there are misspellings in the e-mail so you have to discern. there's a lot of information. it sounds like it is potentially in from a family friend. >> but it's not? >> it's not.
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i guess we want to get it out there for the public, if people want to contribute, that they're aware to be careful. >> you have set up a website? >> that's right, we set up a website, the website is noah's ark of hope fund.com. >> we'll bring that up on the screen. >> there's also a few other friends. friends of maddy, that was set up. that is a legitimate donations site. but there are also ones that are scams, and we want to get that out to the public and we also want to get it out, frankly, to the other victims' families. >> to watch out for that? >> to watch out for that. maybe get friends to look for domain names. look out for scams and then tell that to people and get the word out. >> i saw a twitter page set up for another child that i thought was real at first. i contacted the family and they they don't know anything about it. there are these horrible people out there. the idea that anybody out there could do this is just disgusting but i'm glad you cleared it up. we're putting the correct
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website's name on our screen. what -- it's a dumb question, how are you holding up? how is the family holding up? >> the family is devastated. it was the worst four days of our lives. it's kind of like you're in a waking nightmare. never experienced anything remotely close to it. felt like four years. and as bad as -- as devastated as the family was, the parents, you know, they were suffering so much more. >> of course. >> everybody was suffering so much. it's been a horrible, horrible -- you know, but we're sticking together and we're coming together as a family very strongly. and we want to, you know, focus on making something positive out of it. and frankly, the only positive parts to the last two days. there's two things. first when i see noah's siblings, arielle and sophia, they both survived. >> they were in the school? >> they were in the school.
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sophia, as i understand it, her teacher put all the kids in the closet and shushed them. the killer opened the door and thought there were no kids there and didn't find them. whenever i'm there with the family, i just see them, that brings me joy that they made it. the other thing that brings me joy is just the outpouring of support from everybody. friends, community, the country, everything. and that's made a huge difference. and, finally, the other thing that kind of got us through was certain people that played kind of guardian angels. we had a state trooper assigned to us, sean hickey who is kind of a rock for us. made a huge difference. we had a grief counsellor, dr. laura asher. another rock. for families to get through this, you need those rocks, kind of at your back, to push you forward. we got that from friends and
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community. >> we know there's a lot of difficult weeks and months even years ahead. i appreciate you talking tonight. i wish you the best. >> thank you. >> thanks very much, alexei. the website is noah's ark of hope fund.com. we'll put that up on our website anderson cooper.com. or ac360.com. five days ago the violence that shattered this community, it is raising questions. investigators digging through the killer's history. we're going to talk to our chief medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta. people have doubts about taking aspirin for pain. but they haven't experienced extra strength bayer advanced aspirin. in fact, in a recent survey, 95% of people who tried it agreed that it relieved their headache fast. visit fastreliefchallenge.com today for a special trial offer.
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i feel worried, nervous, but at the same time, i'm feeling
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happy to be back at school because the whole think just, everyone will be together. we'll probably be a good thing for the victims as well -- the siblings, the family of the victims. >> one of the newtown students talked about his mixed feelings about returning to class today. as we mentioned sandy hook elementary remains closed, of course. but other schools reopening their doors. the tragedy here sparking nationwide dialogue on gun control, mental health, school security. today, the national rifle association announced a news conversation set for friday. said the national rifle association of america is made of of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters. out of respect for the families, we and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and full investigation of the fact. the nra is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.
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what exactly that means, we're not sure. to make sure it never happens again is a top priority for many in this community. lillian bittman joins us now the chairman of the newtown board of education and a former sandy hook parent. you were awake earlier for daniel. >> daniel barden. >> you were a friend of the family. >> that's the family we're closest to. the family very much wanted me to deliver something tonight. they were interviewed on another network and -- i'm sorry. >> that's okay. >> their daughter, i had a newspaper -- one of my sons is friends with james. and their daughter was on the sandy hook school newspaper that i ran. and she had wanted to ask president obama a question. when they met before the vigil. >> right. >> and she was -- one of my best reporters.
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she was one of these gung ho kids and she obviously was intimidated. they were hoping that president obama would hear her words tonight if we could get them read on air. she gave me a letter, unfortunately, there were too many people at the wake for me to actually get up to see the family. so the letter was passed back to me. this is what she wrote. if you could read it because i can't. >> family gave permission? >> the family wants -- they told me to bring it to you. >> it says my name is natalie barden, and i wanted to tell the president that only police officers and the military should have guns. if people want to do it as a sport then they should go to a shooting range and the guns would not be able to leave there. that's what they wanted presented on air? >> yes, that is what she wanted to ask him. when she told me about the letter, i told her well now you're a member of the white house press corps. she giggled at that. that was really good.
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she wants to make a difference. this was her little way of making a difference. it's kind of one of those wonderful things it's helping her heal because now she can make daniel's life count for something and try to get this to the president and hopefully to congress and everyone else. >> you can tell her that the world has heard her letter tonight. and hopefully, the white house has as well. >> i will. >> you were telling me earlier at the memorial service. conversations are already being had here something has to come out of this this cannot go -- >> over and over at this wake, i was standing with people, also in other conversations and everyone is saying we have to make this count for something. we have to make change. and there's lots of different things happening to try to do that but the most important thing that everyone's talking about are three issues, mental health, gun control and safety of school facilities. and everywhere you go, that's what people are talking about so -- >> and you're hearing civil
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conversations? >> i am. actually, earlier today i was invited to be part of an online panel and i was with a gun proponent and a woman out of the virginia tech, an english teacher in that situation and several others. and we had a civil discourse online for about an hour. that's what we need to do, have that civil discourse, so that we can find the solutions. it's not just one thing. it's a multitude of things. but we'll never get there if we can't talk to each other. >> but the idea that the media will go away and things will quiet down and nothing will change, that would break the hearts of people here? >> well, somebody called me cinderella because they thought that my trying to get this message out and trying keep this in the forefront of our politicians would never happen. i say it can. we can effect change if we stand together and work with all the countries across this country that have been affected by mass shootings and we hold the politicians accountable to make change. not just in one area, but let's
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find a way so these kinds of things don't happen again. we have to have that discussion. >> how are you holding up? >> oh, today took me off guard. the schools were two hours delayed. i have my seventh grader i drove into the bus stop just because and all the moms were there. and i was just crying. and i didn't see that coming, telling my high schooler goodbye when he drove away. everybody was texting me and all the moms were crying. it's not just the fear of sending them to school. i truly wasn't afraid of that, it's kind of like we're returning to normal and that doesn't feel right. i think we just sort of collapsed because of that. >> we find that tears come at odd times. it comes in waves. when it you least expect it, you find yourself crying. >> my husband actually is crying anytime anybody does something nice for him or says something nice. he just loses it.
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and he's not one to cry like that. it's typical grief but it's more horrific because -- here's something else happening to me. every time i think i have my arms around the people i think i need to help, i remember another group that's been affected by it. they know a family because of -- everyone's struggling with that. it's such a massive thing, we can't really figure out who's truly hurting that's associated with these families. think about that, when you have a child that's playing soccer, that little baby in the stroller, you kind of know about that little sibling, but you focus on the child playing soccer. those are the connections that we're figuring out. >> one of the things lynn mcdonnell said to me about grace, it gives her comfort to know that grace was with her friends and that they were holding hands in her mind. she likes to think of them in heaven right now holding hands together. >> yeah, i understand that. thank you, anderson, i appreciate it.
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next, we got new information from the medical examiner on the gunman. we'll talk to sanjay gupta. we'll be right back. ♪ [ woman ] ring. ring. progresso. i just finished a bowl of your new light chicken pot pie soup and it's so rich and creamy... is it really 100 calories? let me put you on webcan... ...lean roasted chicken... and a creamy broth mmm i can still see you. [ male announcer ] progresso. you gotta taste this soup.
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people responded once they heard about the scene, about the situation. they responded to come and retrieve their children. and when they couldn't find their children, fear set in. panic set in. pain set in. it was fear of the unknown. and when the notification finally had been made, it was absolutely heartbreaking.
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>> well, we said repeatedly, we're not going to focus on the gunman who destroyed all these families five days ago. we don't say his name hardly at all. we frankly don't want history to remember his name or him. at the same time when the investigation unfolds, we do have to talk about the killer. authorities are digging through every facet of his life, including his medical history. today, the medical examiner told hln that the 20-year-old was diagnosed with asperger's syndrome but didn't know if that diagnosis was correct. the former director of security for newtown public schools told cnn that he had asperger's syndrome based on conversations he had with his mother years ago. until now, no one in any official capacity had commented directly on this possible piece of the case if that in fact has anything to do with the case at all. it's a sensitive issue. many people worry that violence will be incorrectly linked to asperger's syndrome. chief medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta joins me now. first of all, can you explain what asperger's syndrome is and
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how it typically presents itself? >> asperger is on the autism spectrum. they use the term spectrum on purpose to be a little bit vague because there are all sorts of symptoms with this. but asperger's considered the highest form of functioning of autism. they're often time socially awkward. they have a hard time making eye contact. strong social connections. again, anderson, you and i talked about this, there are people running major companies in this country who have come out and said they also have asperger's. you can be highly functional with this. but it's hard to characterize symptoms. >> i know people with asperger's, often times, they're experts in one particular realm or particular interests. but as you said, they're socially awkward. i know you've dug into this. is there any evidence at all that autism disorders, which are not mental disorders, are linked
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to violence, planned violence in particular? >> there's not. i don't want to dance around the edges here at all or beat around the bush because this has come up quite a bit. since we started reporting on this, i talked to several experts about this specific issue. there just isn't. there's a paper that's sort of the most often quoted paper with regard to this issue. it's a study of 132 people who had high functioning autism. out of those 132 people, three episodes of violence. none of those episodes were, as you say, preplanned violence. it was typically reactive violence or outbursts. just a very different thing. i think we can dispense with this myth, frankly, that there's a connection between asperger and planned violence. >> and autism spectrum disorders, again, i want to repeat this are not mental illnesses. and people who suffer from disorders, do they know there are any more likely than others to suffer from mental illness?
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>> more likely a concordant mental illness. somebody who will develop mental illness later on. these terms, as you always say, anderson, matter, but when you say something is a neurodevelopment disorder, what that is really saying is this is something that the person has had since birth. it has an inherent quality to it. but as you know, illnesses developing later on in life, late teens and 20s, that's one of the differences between neurodevelopment disorder and mental illness. the asperger's is a neuro development al disorder. >> we're starting to their talk about the violent video games. is there any evidence that connects these types of game to real life behavior? i know they're hugely popular?
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>> yeah, and i think the evidence is pretty sketchy. over the last couple of days i looked at the data carefully, i will tell you since 1972, before the video games were even out there, there were concerns about violent programming. a surgeon general warning about could violent programming lead to aggressive behavior. there have been a couple of studies linked to heart rate and blood pressure in people playing. there's one study that showed it increased lack of empathy overall. studies -- also, that the game makes a person more aggressive. or are aggressive people more likely to play the game? i just think it's hard to draw the connection, anderson. >> sanjay, we appreciate that. we'll be right back. a lot more ahead. ♪
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it just doesn't seem like christmas, you know. it's really, really hard. >> burying little boys and girls days before christmas, days after hanukkah, no one should have to face that. you can feel the sadness in newtown. you can also feel incredible strength. i want to show you a picture of the one of the little girls. this is allison wyatt. a family friend asked us to mention allison. in a statement, they said she quoind hearted, loved drawing, loved to laugh. funny, sweet and intelligent. she was developing a sense of
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humor that went from being a silly 6-year-old coming one observations. those are the words from her parents, 6 years old. we will remember her. earlier you heard chris and lynn mcdonnell talk about their daughter grace. the joy she brought them and her brother jack and everyone she touched. lynn told me their family will open presents on christmas because that's what grace would want. it's hard to hear the song "amazing grace." i told lynn, it's one of my favorite songs. i said now every time i hear it, i'll think of their amazing grace. lynn said she believes all the little children gone are holding hands in heaven, bright stars shining down over newtown. she said none of the kids had hate in their hearts. she acknowledged that the journey ahead is difficult but she'll let the children guide them. we'll leave you with a look at lynn and chris' amazing grace and all the others this town has lost.
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♪ amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me ♪ ♪ i once was lost but now i'm found was blind but now i see ♪ ♪ through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come ♪
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'twas grace that brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home ♪ ♪ amazing grace ♪ how sweet the sound ♪ that saved a wretch like me i once was lost but now i'm found ♪